You've been three years old for a while now, in my mind. Maybe it's your long limbs, ever-expanding feet, the gradual disappearance of your round toddler belly. Perhaps it's the complexity of your emotions and the way you articulate your needs. It's probably due to you eating without your high chair tray, using the potty, dressing yourself, and doing an increasing number of "big girl" things every day. You are growing up beautifully, my love.
We celebrated your birthday with two parties this weekend, one for your friends and another for the family. I've spent a year attending parties where the birthday-kid bursts into tears under the weight of all those eyes and voices, but you didn't do that. You looked forward to the song for months, and when the time came, you hesitated for a moment, and then broke into the biggest grin and basked under all the attention. Interesting behavior, for a child whose teachers ask me if she talks much at home, because you are so quiet in class. They do tell me that you're one of the most musical kids they've ever had. You won't speak up in class, but you have no trouble singing songs on the playground and dancing in the center of the circle. You are not shy by any stretch, just discerning, careful, guarded... but when your trust is earned, you open up and your big personality shines through.
You've been reserved and polite since birth, choosing to watch and listen in new situations rather than speak up and be met with an unpleasant consequence. It's only with those of us in your inner circle that you feel free to push boundaries and, oh, do you push them. You are sassy and silly, with very selective hearing and an inclination to follow instructions but only in your own way, in your own good time. You mostly go with the flow, and for that I am grateful - you cope well with surprises, upheavals, and sudden changes to your schedule. If you are upset, you tell me or show me clearly with your actions, and we talk it through until you feel better.
You are more physical now, jumping, climbing, and running more than ever. You are still not one of those crazy active kids, and I doubt you ever will be. You love your books and, more recently, puzzles. You can spend hours at a time on the floor with your puzzles and can put together 30 pieces by yourself (though you prefer to have "help..." and by help, I mean crying until I sit down beside you and then yelling at me any time I touch a piece). You are going through what I think are typical only-child struggles - how and why to share, the necessity of taking turns, and the difficulties in relating with other kids who do not exhibit calm, adult behaviors. You light up when talking to grown-ups, but are startled and confused when approached by other semi-verbal, rough-and-tumble children.
|You love belly snuggles, kisses, and at least three "biggest, biggest hugs in the whole world" before bed every night.|
You are so sensitive and perceptive, and seem to feel everything very deeply. A slightly raised voice leads to tears; even the threat of me counting to three makes you panic and leap into action (I have no idea what I'd do if I actually counted to three and you still weren't obeying, but you don't seem eager to find out, so I won't worry about it); the very few times that we've spanked you have led to hysterics and serious grudge-holding, with days of you constantly telling me, "you hurt me, Mama!" and bursting into tears about it. We don't spank anymore, unless your behavior endangers your life and needs to cease immediately.
You are such an enlightened being, Amaliya. Such an old soul. From the moment you were born, I never really felt like I had a baby. I didn't see you as an infant, but as a fully-formed person who happened to inhabit a tiny body. Parenting you is not at all what I thought it would be - I anticipated leading, enforcing, instructing, but instead? Instead I am gently guiding while you, incredibly, absorb all this new information about the world and march onward, without me. I never could have anticipated learning so much from you, or needing to follow your lead lest I risk being left behind. Parenting you is not about dictating, it is about listening, engaging, and opening up.
|Sharing an ice cream bar with Daddy on her real birthday|
Parenting a three-year-old requires you to become a three-year-old - wildly curious, totally candid, purely creative, and utterly free. I am your Mama, always, but I am hopeful that as time goes on I will also be your friend, partner, confidant, and fellow explorer journeying through this life hand in hand with you.
Happy 3rd birthday, sweet girl.